DEC 27, 2018 5:17 PM PST

Reputed Medicinal Soil Yields a Superbug-killing Bacterium

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

It’s no secret that antibiotic resistance is a problem that already poses a serious threat to public health, and it’s expected to get worse. That’s sent researchers searching for new antibiotics. One place that they can look is in soil. Bacteria have to compete against one another in the fight for survival, so some have developed highly competitive strategies, including creating antibiotics that will kill other microbes. Soil is rich with microbial life, so it's an excellent place to look for new antibiotics.

Growth of the newly discovered Streptomyces sp. myrophorea, so named because it produces a distinctive fragrance similar to that of oil of wintergreen. Although superficially resembling fungi, Streptomyces are true bacteria and are the source of two-thirds of the various frontline antibiotics used in medicine. / Credit: G Quinn, Swansea University

Scientists studying Irish soil that has a reputation for having medicinal properties have now found a strain of bacteria that can kill superbugs. When tested against the top pathogens that are resistant to drugs, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the newly-identified bacterium stopped the growth of all of them. The researchers, which included scientists from Swansea University Medical School in Northern Ireland, and collaborators in Wales, Brazil, and Iraq named the new bacterial strain Streptomyces sp.myrophorea.

"This new strain of bacteria is effective against four of the top six pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics, including MRSA. Our discovery is an important step forward in the fight against antibiotic resistance,” said Professor Paul Dyson of Swansea University Medical School. The findings have been reported in Frontiers in Microbiology.

The soil came from the region around Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, known as the Boho Highlands. Locally, it’s thought that the soil has a healing effect.

“Our results show that folklore and traditional medicines are worth investigating in the search for new antibiotics. Scientists, historians, and archaeologists can all have something to contribute to this task. It seems that part of the answer to this very modern problem might lie in the wisdom of the past,” added Dyson.

Dr. Gerry Quinn is a member of the research team who was formerly a resident of Boho, County Fermanagh, and was aware of the soil. Traditionally, a bit of this soil would be placed in cloth and then applied to toothaches and throat infections. Of note -ethnopharmacology is a field of study that explores new places for medicines, including folklore.

Zone of inhibition produced by Streptomyces sp myrophorea on a lawn of MRSA. The bacteria is the brown spot, and the lighter color around the spot shows that it is inhibiting the spread of the MRSA which is surrounding it. / Credit: G Quinn, Swansea University

The new bacterial strain was able to inhibit the growth of six pathogens that are resistant to drugs and often sicken hospital patients: MRSA, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE), Klebsiella pneumonia, and carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumanii. It also stopped the growth of gram-negative bacteria. 

The team is currently working to determine how the bacterium prevents the growth of those deadly microbes.

"The discovery of antimicrobial substances from Streptomyces sp.myrophorea will help in our search for new drugs to treat multi-resistant bacteria, the cause of many dangerous and lethal infections,” said Quinn.

“We will now concentrate on the purification and identification of these antibiotics. We have also discovered additional antibacterial organisms from the same soil cure which may cover a broader spectrum of multi-resistant pathogens," concluded Quinn.

Learn more about the battle against dangerous microbes from the video.

 

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Swansea University, Frontiers in Microbiology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JAN 27, 2020
Microbiology
JAN 27, 2020
Microbes in Household Dust May Be Spreading Antibiotic Resistance
Bacteria live in household dust, and sometimes a few of those microbes are pathogenic or carry genes that confer resistance to antibiotics....
JAN 28, 2020
Neuroscience
JAN 28, 2020
Gut Bacteria Influences Behavior in Young Children
Research now suggests that the presence of different gut bacteria may significantly impact children’s behavior, causing some to act out, and some to...
JAN 28, 2020
Immunology
JAN 28, 2020
Infectious Parasite Manipulates the Immune System to Survive
Toxoplasma gondii suppresses the immune system of the hosts it infects – human or otherwise – just enough to survive, thrive, and move on to mo...
FEB 12, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
FEB 12, 2020
Does Traditional Chinese Medicine Work Against Coronavirus?
Over 45,000 cases of Wuhan Coronavirus have been reported globally, alongside over 1,100 deaths. Although over 4,700 people are said to have recovered from...
FEB 28, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
FEB 28, 2020
Vaping Harms Microbiome, Increases Infection and Inflammation
Researchers have found that vaping e-cigarettes may change the composition of the mouth’s microbiome, something that leads to higher risks of inflamm...
MAR 17, 2020
Microbiology
MAR 17, 2020
A Toxin Produced by C.difficile Can Damage Intestinal Stem Cells
Intestinal stem cells help regenerate the lining of the intestine, and that lining or epithelium plays a number of critical roles....
Loading Comments...